Since the state of emergency was declared in October, military personnel, under the coordination of a new entity known as the “Command Post”, have flooded into cities across the country.

By James jeffrey  (IRIN) |

The Ethiopian government has extended a nationwide state of emergency for four months, hailing it as successful in restoring stability after almost a year of popular protests and crackdowns that cost hundreds of lives.

But while parts of Amhara, one of the hotbeds of the recent unrest, may be calm on the surface, IRIN found that major grievances remain unaddressed and discontent appears to be festering: There are even widespread reports that farmers in the northern region are engaged in a new, armed rebellion.

Human rights organizations and others have voiced concern at months of draconian government measures – some 20,000 people have reportedly been detained under the state of emergency, which also led to curfews, bans on public assembly, and media and internet restrictions.

“The regime has imprisoned, tortured and abused 20,000-plus young people and killed hundreds more in order to restore a semblance of order,” said Alemante Selassie, emeritus law professor at the College of William & Mary in the US state of Virginia. “Repression is the least effective means of creating real order in any society where there is a fundamental breach of trust between people and their rulers.”

The government line is far rosier.

“There’s been no negative effects,” Zadig Abraha, Ethiopia’s state minister for government communication affairs, told IRIN shortly before the measures were extended by four months, on 30 March.

“The state of emergency enabled us to focus on repairing the economic situation, compensating investors, and further democratizing the nation… [and] allowed us to normalize the situation to how it was before, by enabling us to better coordinate security and increase its effectiveness.”

Clamping down

On 7 August 2016, in the wake of protests in the neighboring Oromia region, tens of thousands of people gathered in the center of Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region. They had come to vent their anger at perceived marginalization and the annexation of part of their territory by Tigray – the region from which the dominant force in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is drawn.

Accounts vary as to what prompted security forces to open fire on the demonstration – some say a protestor tried to replace a federal flag outside a government building with its now-banned precursor – but by the end of the day, 27 people were dead.

Continue reading this story on IRIN News
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